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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 11 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 28
Jim Gaylord, once fired by Tacoma schools for being Gay, now gets apology and honors
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Jim Gaylord, once fired by Tacoma schools for being Gay, now gets apology and honors

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Forty-two years after being fired from a teaching job for being Gay, Jim Gaylord will finally get an apology and honors from the school board that sacked him.

On July 13, Gaylord, now 76, will get a formal public apology and appreciation from Tacoma School Board President Kurt Miller at Oasis Youth Center's Proud Outloud event.

Proud Outloud is an annual fundraiser for Oasis, and will be held at the Stadium High School Performing Arts Center, 111 North 'E' Street, in Tacoma. Doors will open at 6:00 p.m. Oasis is Tacoma's drop-in, support, and resource center for LGBTQ youth.

Gaylord began teaching in 1960, and by 1972 was a popular instructor teaching senior social studies. He was never out on the job, until a random event brought his sexual orientation to the attention of school administrators.

That year, a Gay friend of his introduced Gaylord to a high school student who was having problems with his sexual identity. The boy and Gaylord talked without Gaylord revealing that he was Gay.

Sometime later, the boy tried to kill himself. Police investigating the suicide attempt interviewed the boy, who told them he'd spoken with Gaylord and believed the teacher was also Gay.

The police then informed Gaylord's superiors, and they fired him. Gaylord appealed to the Tacoma School Board, but they upheld the firing.

Gaylord sued the school district, but the trial judge also upheld his firing. In 1977 Gaylord's appeal went to the Washington Supreme Court, but the high court also agreed that the school district was entitled to fire Gaylord. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal.

Gaylord never returned to teaching, but continues to live in the same Tacoma house he bought as a young teacher. He got a job as a Pierce County librarian, a position he found less stressful than teaching.

Over the years, memory of his ordeal, not uncommon for those days, faded in the community, if not for Gaylord himself. Then he was interviewed as part of an Oasis project to connect LGBT seniors and youth.

Oasis Executive Director Seth Kirby took Gaylord's story to the Tacoma School District, and asked if they would consider making a formal apology for Gaylord's firing. They not only agreed, but also took steps to beef up their nondiscrimination policies.

'Most of us know what it feels like to get a real apology - meaningful words that tell us someone really means they are sorry,' Oasis said in a press release announcing Proud Outloud. 'And regardless of how much time has gone by, it's never too late to take ownership and apologize.'

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Jim Gaylord, once fired by Tacoma schools for being Gay, now gets apology and honors
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